Fresno Unified’s Forkner Elementary under fire for controversial school name

Central Valley, CA
June 4 2021
NEWS

FRESNO, California (KSEE) – More controversy has occurred over the naming of Fresno Unified schools. Forkner Elementary School is currently under fire for being named after a developer who allegedly prevented minorities from living on his properties. 

At the last Fresno Unified School Board meeting, many community members called out Fresno Unified for not having a school site named after a prominent Armenian. 

Mark Arax an Armenian journalist and author spoke at the school board meeting asking the trustees to re-name Forkner Elementary School after Roger Tartarian because of Forkner’s discriminatory past. 

Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic said he is on board with the re-name, but it’s not just up to him. Rather it’s up to all of the Fresno Unified Board members. 

“The Armenian community has risen up and brought forth this phenomenally valid alternative on the Forkner thing with great justification,” said Slatic. 

Slatic said fellow trustees are still receiving backlash weeks after not naming the new Fresno Alternative school after Francine and Murray Farber. 

The school board then wanted to name buildings on the new alternative school after Roger Tatarian and other nominees, but many community members felt that wasn’t good enough. 

Michelle Asadoorian is a former Fresno Unified Trustee. Asadoorian said she is upset that there isn’t a school site named after a prominent Armenian within Fresno Unified. 

“Putting his name over the building would be a consolation prize and he is worthy of more than a mere building,” said Asadoorian. 

Asadoorian read a letter from Roger Tatarian’s grandson at the last school board meeting asking the trustees to rename Forkner after Tatarian due to Forkner’s past.

“What came to light the day after the last school board meeting two weeks ago was that the person who had these deeds full of exclusions all over Fresno was Jesse Clayton Forkner,” Asadoorian said.

According to Asadoorian, Jesse Clayton Forkner was a Fresno Developer who excluded many races including Armenians from living in his developments. 

Recently, the City of Fresno assigned the Historic Preservation Commission to seek out city-owned buildings that may be named after someone with a racist past. 

The commission flagged the Meux Home in Downtown Fresno but did not flag Forkner Elementary school because schools are owned by the state, not the city. 

Patrick Boyd with the Historic Preservation Commission for the City of Fresno said even though they flagged the Meux Home they will not vote to change the name. 

“What we were asked to do was look at city-owned property. That is the only thing we have. All of your schools are state-owned so not under our jurisdiction, not under our purview,” said Boyd. 

Some Fresno Unified trustees said they would eventually consider changing Forkner Elementary School but at this time the name will stay. 

 

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS